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Collection Rosa Parks Papers

About this Collection

The papers of Rosa Parks (1913-2005) span the years 1866-2006, with the bulk of the material dating from 1955 to 2000.  The collection, which contains approximately 7,500 items in the Manuscript Division, as well as 2,500 photographs in the Prints and Photographs Division, documents many aspects of Parks's private life and public activism on behalf of civil rights for African Americans. The collection is a gift made to the Library in 2016 through the generosity of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.  The Library received the materials in late 2014, formally opened them to researchers in the Library’s reading rooms in February 2015, and now has digitized them for optimal access by the public.

Family papers include correspondence with her husband Raymond A. Parks; her mother, Leona Edwards McCauley; and her brother, Sylvester McCauley.  Correspondence with her husband and mother contains the largest number of letters written by Parks in the collection. Letters by Sylvester McCauley largely concern his efforts to convince his sister to move to Detroit.  Events surrounding Parks's arrest in 1955 for disorderly conduct after she refused to give her seat to a white passenger, as well as the subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott, are described in many of her writings, notes, and correspondence from 1955 to 1956. Other subjects covered in the collection include Parks's work in Congressman John Conyers's Detroit office; her participation in major civil rights events such as the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in 1957, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, Mississippi Freedom Project in 1964, and the Poor People's Campaign in 1968; and Parks's Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal along with material concerning other honors received by Parks.

The collection also documents Parks's affiliation with organizations and institutions including the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, an organization she founded with Elaine Eason Steele to promote youth development and civil rights education; Hampton Institute, Highlander Folk School, Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Saint Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church, Detroit, Michigan.

The vast majority of items in the Parks Collection have been digitized in their entirety and may be viewed in this online collection. Other material is available to researchers through the Manuscript and Prints and Photographs reading rooms. A small percentage (approximately 6 percent) of the manuscript items, consisting largely of newspapers, magazines, and other publications still under copyright along with some materials for which rights clearance is still pending, may be viewed onsite only at this time. Among the visual materials, all items were digitized except the children's greeting cards for which a representative sample is included in this online collection.

Description of Series

The manuscript collection is arranged in eleven series:

Family Papers, 1900-2005

Includes correspondence, certificates, notes, financial records, employment records, insurance documents, medical records, photographs, news clippings, and other material pertaining to the family of Rosa Parks.  Letters to and from Parks arranged alphabetically by name of immediate family member.  Papers of Parks's husband, mother, brother, and father arranged alphabetically by name of family member and alphabetically thereunder by topic or type of material. Letters from extended family grouped together in a chronological arrangement.

General Correspondence, 1928-2006

Includes letters Parks received from prominent individuals; a chronological file of largely incoming correspondence from friends, acquaintances, organizations, event planners, and the general public; greeting cards; and the letters and drawings of children.  Arranged alphabetically and chronologically.

Subject File, 1937-2005

Includes correspondence, memoranda, invitations, notes, writings, interview transcripts, programs, flyers, name tags, newsletters, lists, certificates, song sheets, petitions, photographs, and other material pertaining to Parks's affiliation with organizations and institutions, her participation in major civil rights events, and various efforts to honor her. Arranged alphabetically by name of organization, institution, or event, by topic, or by type of material.

Writings, Notes, and Statements, 1956-1998

Contains book galleys, drafts of writings, notes, notebooks, interviews, prayers, spiritual reflections, and statements by Parks.  Arranged alphabetically by type of material.

Events, 1951-2005

Includes programs, flyers, tickets, and other printed matter pertaining to Parks's speaking engagements, the honors she received, and the events she attended.  Arranged in two parts: events featuring or honoring Parks and a general file of events that she most likely attended even though her name does not appear in programs.  Each part is arranged chronologically within.

Resolutions and Other Honors, 1967-2006

Contains resolutions, tributes, certificates, honorary degrees, and poetry honoring Parks.  Arranged alphabetically in categories and within each category by name of organization, institution, person, or state. These materials are included as part of the oversize series in this online edition.

Miscellany, 1934-2005

Includes financial, employment, insurance, estate, and medical records, appointment calendars, address books, biographical material, membership and business cards, telephone messages, a recipe, a questionnaire, and other material documenting Parks's daily life and material circumstances. Arranged alphabetically by type of material or topic.

Printed Matter, 1947-2005

Contains magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, brochures, commemorative stamps, calendars, and various printed ephemera either pertaining to or collected by Parks.  Arranged alphabetically by type of material or topic.  Partially digitized.

Books Owned by Parks, 1866-2001

Books owned by Parks.  Some of the books are inscribed with the names of family.  Others contain inscriptions to Parks by the author or the person giving her the book. Arranged alphabetically by name of author or title.  Partially digitized.

Medals, 1996-1999

The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Arranged alphabetically by name of medal.

Oversize, 1900-2006

Oversize material consisting of resolutions, tributes, certificates, honorary degrees, correspondence, writings, political ephemera, labor and campaign buttons, a calendar, a family Bible, and newspapers.   Arranged and described according to series, containers, and folders from which the items were removed.  Partially digitized.

NOTE: Also available with this online collection are the Visual Materials from the Rosa Parks Papers.